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Protecting Your Young Gamers

According to a recent New York Times investigation, sexual predators have found an easy access point into the lives of young people: They are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes. Many of the interactions lead to crimes of “sextortion,” in which children are coerced into sending explicit imagery of themselves.

What can parents do to prevent those kinds of contacts and exchanges? Experts say that first and foremost, parents need to spend time with kids on new apps and games so that they learn the features and can set realistic rules for when and how children can interact with others online. Showing an interest in what games your kids play also builds trust that they will be able to have honest conversations about issues they may run into down the line. As kids’ online lives begin to expand, parents should also educate their children on how to block other users who make them uncomfortable. Lastly, experts warn that parents must remember that they are ultimately responsible for being their child’s online protector.

Pew Study Looks at YouTube’s Most Popular Content

A recent Pew Research Center report looked at the most watched videos on YouTube and found that videos featuring kids and those targeted to kids are highly popular, clocking in at nearly three times as many views on average as other types of videos. Also revealed is that videos with the keywords "Fortnite," "prank" or "worst" in their title garnered more than five times as many views as those without these search terms.  Content about video games also remains hugely popular on YouTube, with about 18% of English-language videos posted by popular channels during the study period related to video games or gaming. 

eSports Continue to Roll

Do you know a kid who excels at video games but not traditional sports? Or maybe they excel at both? It could be time your school looked into eSports. Defined as competitive video game play, eSports has moved beyond negative stereotypes into a smart, developmental, multidisciplinary activity that can actually earn student-players scholarships at top-named universities.

If you are looking for resources to help your child or school get started,  Kevin Brown, an educator in California, shares tips to help implement such programs. His blog post includes strategies for organization and how to design eSports electives that support state learning standards and students' career explorations.

Research Says Too Much Social Media a Teen Depression Risk

Canadian researchers reported recently in JAMA Pediatrics that teens with higher-than-normal social media and TV use have increased odds of developing depression symptoms, with increased social media and TV screen time tied to greater symptom severity. According to the study co-author Elroy Boers, "Social media and television are forms of media that frequently expose adolescents to images of others operating in more prosperous situations, such as other adolescents with perfect bodies and a more exciting or rich lifestyle." However, the findings, based on data involving nearly 4,000 Canadian youths followed from ages 12 to 16, showed that higher video-game and computer-use levels didn't affect depression symptoms.

Is Fortnite The New Facebook for Teens?

Do your children play Fortnite? They may be using it for more than gaming. National Research Group (NRG) recently released a study that found that “Fortnite uniquely combines benefits from gaming, social media and streaming platforms,” with young consumers telling them “it’s the best place to ‘be my authentic self’ and ‘connect to what everyone is talking about, making me feel like I’m not alone.’” While the top social platforms still have more users, Fortnite’s user base volume is catching up to the likes of Twitter.

Colleges Tap Gaming as an Engagement Strategy

According Education Dive, some colleges and universities, and even businesses, are using gamification - the use of game-like features such as point-scoring, earning badges and leaderboards - to help engage members of Generation Z and other digital natives. At California State University at Dominguez Hills, students earn prizes for certain on-campus behaviors, such as joining a student group or accessing mental health services. Colleges are hoping to use these tactics as a way to encourage student success, both in and out of the classroom.

New Study: Violent Video Games Not Tied to Violent Behavior

Teenagers who spent more time playing violent video games do not have greater odds of engaging in aggressive behaviors compared with their peers, according to a new study by UK researchers at Oxford University published in Royal Society Open Science and reported in The Independent . The findings were based on data involving 1,000 British youths ages 14 and 15. One of the researchers did comment that games could provoke angry outbursts while playing online, however it doesn’t necessarily translate to real-world aggression. 

Digital Play Benefits Student Learning

Digital play benefits students' learning, according to Jordan Shapiro, an author and senior fellow for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in an article on Edutopia online. In the piece, Shapiro shares how teachers and parents can embrace game-based learning and digital play and encourage kids to use digital tools as a means of self-expression. He also points out that adults must model the behaviors they expect and not issue mixed messages. For example, many parents harp on their children for constantly being on their phones, but do not manage their own screen time- something their children can clearly pick up on.

Children’s Personal Data at Risk Online

Children's data, including Social Security numbers, is increasingly being sold on the dark web, according to research from Terbium Labs, a Baltimore-based dark web data intelligence company. In her detailed commentary regarding the dark web market, researcher Emily Wilson points out that children's data can be used to commit fraud because most people are not checking their babies and children’s credit reports. Facebook has also been recently charged for their negligence with child data, including the use of a research app to spy on minors and turning a blind eye to so-called “friendly fraud”.

Video Game Treatment May Be Beneficial For ASD, ADHD

Children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and concurrent ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) symptoms who were treated with a new video game tool called Project: EVO saw improvements to their attention spans, according to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Children using the treatment scored better on the TOVA API test, and parents reported that the game helped mitigate ADHD symptoms and helped to improve attention spans according to researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.